As the world’s largest rodent, a capybara looks like a guinea pig with webbed feet. It is considered to be a half-land and half-water mammal that needs a good deal of both land and water to thrive. They are found throughout the world but prevail in Central American and South America](/continents/south-america-population). In North America](/continents/north-america-population), they are not easy to find, and owners will typically purchase them from breeders or have them imported from other countries.
While many states will have some municipalities or counties offering licenses for ownership, owners should check with their local county or municipal councils to see how to own a capybara legally.
Owning a capybara is often an extremely complicated process, as is the case with any exotic animal. In addition to the costs of purchase, the license costs and maintenance costs will be high. Licensing can be procured through Fish and Wildlife departments in the state, and some states have a third-party processor that deals with the permitting of possession of wild animals. Here, owners can get the information they need to purchase and keep a capybara safe at home.
The capybara can grow to become as large as 140 pounds and will need a diet that can sustain that weight and those nutritional needs. That is a diet that is typically very high in protein. Capybaras can eat much of the same meat that humans do.
These are animals that require water and land to thrive. Many will need a water component to live in or use it for swimming and submerging on occasion. A capybara can not tolerate the chemicals in a chlorinated pool but can enjoy saltwater pools. They can swim for hours at a time and stay submerged for up to five minutes.
These animals have uniquely webbed feet and eyes, and this helps them to swim and survive. Their nostrils are also uniquely shaped, and all of these features are to help them survive in wetlands.
Even though capybaras are technically legal in each state that is NOT listed below, the permitting process can be so extensive and complicated that it basically becomes illegal. The states below are those that have gone so far as to make any sort of possession illegal or have given themselves the complete authority to decide it is illegal on a case-by-case basis.
The Alaskan Department of Fish & Game released a “Clean List” with every approved species that can enter the state and be owned. Any species not named there “may not be imported into Alaska or possessed as a pet or livestock in Alaska, and the Department of Fish and Game cannot issue a permit allowing its importation or possession.”
California doesn’t allow any non-native wild animal to be a pet unless otherwise instructed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Capybaras, and even gerbils, don’t fall into that category.
The only wild, exotic animals you can own are those deemed safe by the Division of Wildlife. Capybaras are not included on that list, therefore, are prohibited from possessing in the state of Colorado.
The state of Connecticut breaks wildlife up into four categories and bans the import and possession of all of them. In regards to capybaras, the second category includes all rodents and excludes those the state deems acceptable to keep as pets.
There is a clause in the legislature of Illinois that gives the Department of Natural Resources the power to “prohibit or limit the importation, possession, release into the wild, take, commercialization of take, sale, and propagation of wild mammals, wild birds, and feral livestock that are not defined as protected species in Section 2.2 of this Act, to reduce risks of communicable diseases, nuisances, and damages to wild or domestic species, agricultural crops, property, and environment.” This means that it is almost impossible to own a capybara in the state of Illinois privately.
In Massachusetts, regulating code 9.01 states that permits are required for possession of any non-domesticated, wild animals and these permits are never given for animals intended to be pets, essentially making it illegal to have a pet capybara.
New York City has a division called the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) that issues violations for those who sell or keep wild/illegal animals as pets. They even have a portal that the Department uses to collect such reports. New York state also has bans on the possession, transportation, and keeping of any wild species.
The state of Oregon specifically notes capybaras as being animals that are prohibited from being kept within the state. Capybaras can be found on the “Prohibited Species” list.
Permits are required to keep any kind of wild animal in the state of Vermont, but unless you are a “bona fide scientific or educational” facility, the Commissioner does not provide permits to keep or possess any wild animal. Statute 5, section 2, clearly states this ruling.
Pet Capybara Legality
|District of Columbia||Illegal|
|New York||Legal||Capybaras are legal in the state of New York, but illegal pets in New York City|
|Pennsylvania||Legal||In Pennsylvania, Capybaras are legal with an exotic wildlife possession permit, which requires the documentation of at least 2 years of experience in hands-on work with the rodent|
|Utah||Legal||Permit likely required|
|Vermont||Illegal||Technically legal with permit, but permits are reserved for “bona fide scientific or educational” facilities, rendering pet capybaras effectively illegal for the general public|